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Kiss a T.O.A.D.
by Melissa Mayntz

The new year is a time of fresh optimism and eagerness, particularly for writers hoping to break in to new markets, increase their income, or finally publish that book. The best intended resolutions, however, are nothing more than fantasy without a plan to make them come true. Unfortunately, most writers have only the vaguest ideas about how to advance their careers in the new year, but by following the proactive lessons of fairy tales every writer can find princely profits this year.

Even in the simplest fairy tales dreams don’t really come true by wishing. Cinderella had to risk going to the ball and defying her stepmother to find her prince. Sleeping Beauty indulged her curiosity to touch the spindle. Even Little Red Riding Hood had to be intuitive enough to recognize the wolf.

Writers may not have to attend balls, spin yarn, or tame wolves to make their career goals a reality, but they have to do something that requires just as much mental acumen to ensure their careers have a happy ending: they have to kiss a T.O.A.D. (frogs are for princesses, not writers).

With these four steps – T.O.A.D. – writers can put their career on the fast and profitable track whatever their writing goals.

T: Time

A writer needs time to work above all else. Define your work times clearly and consistently, whether you work for two hours every morning, one evening a week, or full time. Be sure family members, neighbors, and friends are aware of your work schedule, and honor your own time by refusing personal phone calls, coffee breaks, and other distractions. At the same time, keep to your schedule to avoid work impinging on evening family and social time. As your commitment to this schedule increases, you’ll see your hourly pay rate increase as well with more successful sales.

O: Organize

Organization is essential for any writer. Begin organizing lists or planners to schedule your time, and use editorial calendars, long term goals, and multi-step lists to organize your workload, whether it is querying multiple magazines or approaching agents. Don’t neglect physical organization, however: keep tax deductible receipts in an organized location, develop a filing system for new writing ideas, and organize your emails to keep contact information handy. An organized writer knows exactly where the money is, whether it is an outstanding invoice, a check stub, or a tax deduction.

A: Analyze

Many writers spend too much time preparing to write but not enough time understanding what they ought to be writing in the first place. Examine the last six months’ worth of writing efforts: Which articles were accepted and which were rejected? Are there patterns to your success? Find common ground to your best markets and highest paying pieces and focus more effort on those profitable ventures while trimming away time consuming but unsuccessful work. This technique also works with novelists – which agents requested your manuscript? What suggestions were offered by editors, even those rejecting your work? Analyzing those common themes will lead to greater success and higher profits.

D: Define

Only after the preliminary work time has been established, efforts organized, and past submissions analyzed should writers define what they want to accomplish in the coming months. A lofty goal is useless without the proof to back it up, but once you have reflected on your writing situation and what you hope to accomplish, you can define your goals clearly and precisely. At the same time, define other parts of your writing life: Where is your office space? What type of writer are you – a copywriter, poet, or novelist? Do you work with fiction or nonfiction? Children’s, teen, or adult markets? One definition will not fit all writers, nor will all writers use only one definition, but defining your career and its goals is essential – you can’t reach a goal if you don’t know what it is.

Kissing a T.O.A.D. may not be the prettiest acronym for a writer’s career path, but it can help you reach your princely profits even if you don’t have a fairy godmother to help along the way.

© Copyright 2010, Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a freelance writer and editor from Utah. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including About.com, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, ByLine Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, the Orlando Sentinel, LoveToKnow.com, and WritersWeekly. She has edited more than 20 fiction and non-fiction manuscripts for publishers and independent writers; for current project rates and additional details, visit www.MelissaMayntz.com.

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